Star-struck at Sundance — Notes from behind the lens

Published: Tuesday, Jan. 26 2010 12:00 a.m. MST

Actor Jimmy Smits, a cast member in the film "Mother & Child," poses for a rooftop portrait during the Sundance Film Festival on Monday.

Chris Pizzello, Associated Press


Tommy Lee Jones and Chris Cooper wouldn't stop for a photo. Would they?

If big-time Ben Affleck, John C. Reilly, Tilda Swinton and Philip Seymour Hoffman wouldn't pause for just one lousy second, then why would Jones and Cooper?

But I had to try. I knew I had one chance.

And I wanted to do a great job for the company that hired me for two days this past weekend to photograph happenings at a celebrity lounge during the Sundance Film Festival.

As for the reporter in me, I felt a little like a spy. I wanted to tell a story, however shallow and trivial it may be. To be safe, though, I won't say who hired me or where exactly I was.

I shot all of the standard stuff. The details. The wide shots. Inside and outside. There were places, faces and certain staged stuff I wasn't supposed to shoot.

One guy hired me, but six more were either telling me to not shoot someone or the next minute, for example, to follow and photograph supermodel Rachel Hunter the next minute. No, I'm not asking for sympathy.

Sadly, ex-hubby rocker Rod Stewart was absent. Hunter would have to do. And she was as sweet as pie, no doubt used to being photographed once or twice.

Then there was Tilda. There's a certain presence or energy about her, not to mention the huge entourage, that makes her seem completely unapproachable. I didn't try.

David Hyde Pierce graciously stopped.

"OK, if you do it right away," he replied to my request for a photo.

He stood there for a moment. I told him I'd take three shots. Pop. Pop. Pop.

He smiled, stocking cap still on. Over and done with. Thanks. A slap on the shoulder from Pierce. Bye.

Gold, or at least silver in my book.

The list of those who were generous with a moment and a smile is long.

SNL's Rachel Dratch, musician John Forte, director Davis Guggenheim, brothers Mark and Jay Duplass, pretty boy Adrian Grenier (a chef in Vegas has promised to "hook" me up with some serious grub for a photo I shot of her and Grenier), the injured but still gorgeous Appolonia, Grammy winner Jorge Moreno and on and on.

So many stars were so nice. I never tried to take a close-up shot without asking first.

Actor John Ortiz came in. Ortiz moved on. When he came back my way, I asked. He stood at the top of the stairs. Two shots this time, both vertical. Flash. Flash. We exchanged a fist bump.

Bam. It was that easy.

It should always be that easy. But attitudes and publicists get in the way.

Affleck had the attitude, mouthy and off-putting as he quickly walked through the upstairs. I didn't even ask. See ya.

Some actors rely on their publicists to be mouthy. And I get it. They're busy. And the actors probably don't want to be rude. So they pay someone to do their dirty work as they quietly navigate their way around the festival.

When Hoffman's publicist denied my request, I simply told the actor, "Hey, have a good time." Hoffman looked at me, smiled, patted me on the shoulder and said, "Thanks."

When John C. Reilly, Jonah Hill and part of the cast of "Cyrus" came breezing through, I merely asked how their premiere went the previous night. They were friendly. But no photos.

The best shots I would get of "Cyrus" cast members during the festival came during their red carpet appearance. Like shooting fish in a barrel. I zoomed in close enough on Hill to see beads of sweat on his face.

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